The DWP are deliberately inflicting hardship on claimants who appeal against ESA decisions by misleading GPs into refusing to issue sick notes. The shock finding was published last week by the legal advice charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K).
ESA claimants who challenge a decision that they are capable of work cannot claim ESA whilst they are waiting for a mandatory reconsideration decision. They may be able to claim JSA, but many claimants are reluctant to do so for fear that they may be unable to meet any jobseeking requirements and then be subject to a sanction.
However, if the mandatory reconsideration is unsuccessful, as the overwhelming majority are, claimants can then lodge an appeal and reclaim ESA whilst waiting for their appeal to be heard.
But in order to reclaim ESA, they have to produce a fit note from their GP.
Until recently the information given to GPs in form ESA65B, issued when a claimant is found fit for work, made it clear that no further fit notes should be issued to that patient except in certain circumstances. It explained that the patient had been found fit for work and :
“This means you do not have to give your patient any more medical statements for Employment and Support Allowance purposes. But you may have to give your patient new medical statements if
they decide to appeal against our decision
their condition gets significantly worse
they have a new medical condition.”
However, the new letter being sent to GPs states:
“As a result of this decision, [Title] [Surname] is not entitled to ESA from and you do not need to provide any more fit notes to [select] relating to [select] disability/health condition for ESA purposes.”
No mention of any circumstances in which fit notes should be issued is made at all.
Z2K first became aware of the issue because of difficulties experienced by their client Louis, who had lodged an appeal against an ESAS decision. Louis’ GP refused absolutely to start issuing fit notes again because, he said, had received a letter from the DWP instructing him not to do so, no matter how mill his patient was.
According to Z2K:
“The decision to omit mention of ESA pending appeal in the current ESA65B is irresponsible to the point of spreading misinformation to GPs. Louis had to register at a different practice, in order to find a GP willing to write him a fit note, despite there being no question that it was medically appropriate to do so. Louis did not have enough money to buy food while this was being resolved.”
The DWP have offered no explanation whatsoever for the change in the wording of the letter, except that it was altered as a result of a ‘ministerial requirement’.
That it is a ministerial requirement that claimants be caused as much suffering as possible, regardless of the law, will probably come as no surprise to our readers.
You can read the full story from Z2K here.